The Pulse: Hudson Valley July 2008 Issue

A LaGrangeville entrepreneur takes multitasking to a whole new level, Valley volunteers lend a helping hand, and fantastic fireworks light up the sky.

The Pulse



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Chore Chum



Hang on busy executives, harried housewives (and everyone in between): Help with your errands is just a phone call away 


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By David Levine



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Like many working mothers, Allison Short of LaGrangeville needed help getting everything done. Unlike other working moms, she decided to do something about it. In February, she founded In a New York Minute Concierge
Service to help families with all that modern life throws at them.


How did this idea come about?

Guilt, really. I had just had my second child and was back at work as a full-time manager of a dental office. It quickly became clear that juggling a family and a career — juggling life — was impossible. My husband used to have dry cleaning in his car for two weeks because he couldn’t find time to drop it off. All of our friends were in the same position. We all wanted a simpler life. We all needed a second set of hands.


Where does the guilt come in?

As a wife and mother, I don’t want to spend my weekend running errands. I want to be with my family. I thought that if someone could help, the guilt would be eliminated. I did some research, and found that no one could offer every errand and chore in one package. So I decided to do it myself.


What made you think you could do this?

I have always been involved with scheduling or managing people’s time. I did it while managing the dental office. Most office managers don’t do this, but I helped my boss rent his condo, build his house, get his dry cleaning, all that stuff. I thought, if I could do it for him, I could do it for anyone.


Most people hate doing chores and errands. You want to do it for a living?

I love grocery shopping. I love organizing closets, organizing lives, really. It’s very rewarding, very therapeutic. You start with a mess and finish with something nice and tidy.


How does the service work?

Well, first I went to various vendors and negotiated deals with them. So, say you’re at work and need an oil change, I have preferred vendors for that service. I also have pet groomers, dog walkers, real estate agents, travel agents, you name it. They are all very high quality; I’ve done diligent research. I want everything done to a high level.

I also do the basic, daily-grind kind of stuff — fill prescriptions, go grocery shopping or personal shopping. I can help new mothers who can’t leave the house for the first few weeks. I help surgery patients who are recovering at home. I can check in on your elderly parents and do light chores for them. I can organize your closet. I even have a reminder service. I’ll remind you of upcoming birthdays and anniversaries, and then get a gift for you. My husband inspired that — he doesn’t remember things well.


What do you charge?

I charge in 15-minute increments, because a lot of things don’t take an hour. In the past, I’ve charged $8 per 15 minutes, and I will travel up to 25 miles. Beyond that, there is a mileage charge.


Do you worry that handling everyone else’s errands won’t leave you time to do your own?


Oh, no. (Laughs.) You don’t know me very well!


For more information, visit or E-mail Allison Short at


Music and Medicine



How a Garrison woman brought two worlds together




By Eric R. Olson



In 1981, a young music therapist named Connie Tomaino encounters an older hospitalized man, who hasn’t been able to speak for the past five years due to multiple severe strokes. She tries one of her standard methods of treatment — playing familiar songs on her accordion to see if she can get some kind of vocal response — but nothing seems to work.


One day, after several fruitless sessions, she stumbles across a particular tune that provokes a guttural noise from the patient. In the meetings that follow, he starts to make progress. At first he can only sing individual words, then eventually entire sections of the song. Over time he regains the ability to talk, and is able to carry on normal conversations for the rest of his life.


“Fifty percent of stroke patients that can’t talk, can sing,” says Tomaino. “We have a neurological memory of things, and in this patient it became a gateway to restoring his function.” The song that triggered the patient’s response is the same bedtime song he used to sing to his children.


Tomaino, now 53, lives in Garrison and is the director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in the Bronx. She describes the role of the institute (which she helped found) as “the bridge between the neuroscience community and clinical music therapy.” And in many ways this mirrors the career she has chosen, one that allows her to bridge two quite distinct interests: music and medicine.


Tomaino was not always clear about her career path. “I had this dilemma in my junior year of college,” she says of her experience at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in the early ’70s. “I was planning to go into medicine, but I wanted to learn to play music.”


In 1976 she enrolled in the newly created master’s degree program for music therapy at New York University.


“People were telling me there’s no future in music therapy,” she says. While earning her degree, she played in jazz and salsa bands around Greenwich Village, thinking that her planned career in therapy would end up as a part-time job.


After completing her degree, she went to work for Beth Abraham Family Health Services. It was there, as the only music therapist on staff, that Tomaino’s powerful experiences treating people with music deepened her interest in the science behind it.

Tomaino calls music “brain aerobics.” Playing a piece of music uses many parts of a musician’s brain at once: he is reading the notes, moving the instrument with his body, and thinking about the notes that come next — often five to 10 measures ahead.


“There’s a lot of mind work that goes into being a performer,” she adds. “Fundamentally, it is keeping brain circuits alive and activated so that they either re-engage the cells, or other neural networks, or actually encourage new networks to be formed.” The institute’s music therapists apply this same principle to patients by having them listen to and perform music, improving their brain function in the process.


As funding for research has taken off, the institute’s focus has shifted. It now looks for the best ways to treat physical brain problems like stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and accidental trauma, using the existing body of knowledge about how the brain responds to music.


In addition, the institute seeks to connect neuroscientists with the practical information gathered by its music therapists, who visit scores of patients each day in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and White Plains.


It’s not surprising that a woman so immersed in the world of sound should look for a little peace and quiet at home. “I live in the woods on purpose,” she says of her Putnam County home. “Nature sounds help me when I really want to think.”


This Old House



Volunteers in Dutchess County extend a helping hand
to families in need




By Jessica Friedlander



All Marian Briggs wanted was a new deck.


Her husband, Jim, a World War II naval veteran stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, lost most of his hearing five years ago and often relies on a wheelchair or cane to get around. Their deck allows them access to and from their Millerton home. Currently, the aging wood planks are supported by stacks of bricks.


“We’ve always done our own yard work — he’s the handyman,” Marian says, speaking of her husband. “He’s always been able to fix everything and anything, and now he just can’t. And the house is beginning to show the results of it.”


For many veterans and their families, postwar troubles take a devastating toll on the quality of life. Paired with a struggling economy, depreciating house prices, and a slowing job market, they often have no choice but to make do with broken appliances and unsafe conditions.


Thankfully, help is on the way. Rebuilding Together Dutchess County, adapted in 1992 from the Texas-based Christmas in April program, is making large strides towards rehabilitating the homes of local elderly, disabled, and low-income families. The nation’s largest all-volunteer home rehabilitation organization, Rebuilding Together enlists the help of 300,000 administrators, tradesmen, and neighbors to provide repairs worth more than $86 million annually.


In the fall of 2007, Sears Holdings Corporation partnered with Rebuilding Together to create Heroes at Home, a similar rebuilding program that extends assistance to military families twice a year. Both programs look forward to increasing the number of homes restored in the upcoming years.


Harold Ramsey, board member and chair of the RTDC publicity committee, agrees wholeheartedly. “What we need to do is get the help out there when it’s needed, and not just once a year — and we’re moving in that direction.” National Rebuilding Day takes place on the last Saturday in April, when the majority of the projects are completed. But side projects and emergencies are tackled year-round, often unexpectedly; “Last fall a gentleman went into the hospital and came out a double amputee,” Ramsey recalls.

“Well, this gentleman didn’t expect that, and he had no way of getting into his house.

That was an emergency, so we built a ramp alongside the house — he couldn’t wait.”

The program’s top priority is safety and security, Ramsey notes. “We want to make sure the homeowner is happy, and that we did it right. And if by chance it isn’t done right, we make the plans to correct it.”


For Marian and Jim Briggs, the renovations to their home, which include the new deck and replaced electrial outlets, mean more than just safety — it means peace of mind. “I’ve learned to live with a lot of things that don’t work. But when Rebuilding Together came in here and found all these things to fix, I just couldn’t believe it,” Marian marvels.

“Everyone has been so kind, and so concerned about everything. This will make our lives much easier. I’m so grateful.”



Fireworks Extravaganza



Now’s the time to show off your red, white, and blue. This Fourth of July, towns all over the Valley are coming together to celebrate our 232nd year as an independent nation. Check out one of the many fireworks celebrations that are scheduled this year, featuring tons of fun entertainment from live music and parades to kiddie rides and magic shows. So pack a picnic, grab a blanket, and bring the whole family along to view the majestic pyrotechnics displays held in honor of this Independence Day.


Upper Valley

Price Chopper 4th on the Plaza

Food, crafts, and entertainment.

July 4; 2-10 p.m. u Empire State Plaza, Albany. 518-473-0559 or


Music in the Park

Classic rock performance by Watt 4.

July 4; 7 p.m. u Dutchman’s Landing Park.

Main St.

, Catskill. 518-943-0989 or


July 4th Family Festival

Kiddie rides, climbing wall, arts & crafts, pony rides, hay maze, face-painting, a magic show, food, games, and live music by Skeeter Creek Band. July 4; 3 p.m., fireworks at 9:30 p.m. $5, free children under 3 u Columbia County Fairgrounds. Rte. 66, Chatham Village. 845-392-2121 or



West Point Fireworks Show

United States Military Academy Band concert. Bring ID for visitors 16 and older.

July 5; 7:30 p.m. u Trophy Point Amphitheatre. U.S.M.A. campus, West Point.

845-938-2638 or


Hudson Valley Renegades
Post-game Fireworks Show

July 1 & 5; 7 p.m. Ticket prices vary.
u Dutchess Stadium. 1500 Rte. 9D,
Wappingers Falls. 845-838-0094 or


Independence Day Celebration

18th-century music, entertainment, and food. July 4; 1-10 p.m. $7 per vehicle u

Clermont State Historic Site. 1 Clermont Ave., Germantown. 518-537-4240 or


Adam and the Newhearts
Concert & Fireworks Show

July 4; 7 p.m., fireworks at 9:15 p.m.
u Rte. 376, East Fishkill. 845-226-8395 or


July 4th Celebration

Parade starts at Saugerties H.S., winds through the village, and finishes at Cantine Field. July 4; parade at 11 a.m., fireworks begin at dusk u Cantine Field.

Washington Ave.

, Saugerties. 845-246-8412 or


Lower Valley

Town of Haverstraw Fireworks

Concert featuring Ob-La-Di Bla-Da and Swingtime Big Band. July 3; 6 p.m., fireworks 9:30 p.m. u Bowline Point Park, Haverstraw. 845-429-2200 or


Family Music Festival
& Fireworks Display

Music by the Shangrilas.

July 3; 8 p.m. u Nanuet H.S.

103 Church St.

, Nanuet. 845-639-6200 or


Fireworks Show & Entertainment

Music by Channel One. July 3; 7:30 p.m.
u Louis Engel Waterfront Park, Ossining. 914-941-3189 or


Pets on Parade



This summer, it’s raining cats and dogs — and not just during one of the Valley’s infamous thunderstorms. Area artists have summoned their creative talents to craft whimsical painted pups and cute kitties like those shown here; the former can be seen in the city of Hudson’s business district, while the fab felines have congregated on Main and West Bridge Streets in Catskill. More than 60 fiberglass pooches are expected to line the area in and around Hudson’s Warren Street, according to Tricia DiGregorio of the Columbia County Council on the Arts. “It’s taken on a life of its own,” she says of “Best in Show” (as the exhibit is called). “As word has spread, artists have come out of the woodwork to participate. It’s been fun and wonderful.” In the fall, all of the animated animals will be “adopted” at special auctions, with the proceeds going to local charities. “Cat’n Around Catskill” is on view through Sept. 21, “Best in Show” through Oct. 12.





A unique golf program has members dreaming of holes in one

hat could be better for a golf enthusiast than membership in an exclusive club featuring 18 challenging holes, divine views, and private lessons with some of the PGA pros themselves? Why, membership in six clubs, of course.


Enter Club Max USA, the brainchild of famed golf-course architect Eric Bergstol. Bergstol’s company, Empire Golf Management, runs Club Max, the first (and only) private golf program in the Northeast. The program allows its members unlimited access to six luxurious, championship-calibur courses throughout southern New York and New Jersey — all for the price of one. Individual memberships start at $13,000.


Each course is intricately designed and takes advantage of its unique topography while preserving its beauty and individual charm. Several Hudson Valley clubs are participating in the program, including Branton Woods in Hopewell Junction (Golf Digest gave this course the 2007-2008 Architecture Award for outstanding design), Hollow Brook in Cortlandt Manor, and Minisceongo in Pomona. (The other three clubs are located in New Jersey; there are also two bonus clubs, one each in New Jersey and in Florida).


Whether for a business outing, vacation, or to perfect your backswing, Club Max’s program makes par with pros and beginners alike. — J.F.


Captions: Healing notes: Music therapist Connie Tomaino


Workers mend a roof on Rebuilding Day. From left: Bill Hayter, Eric Roberts, Mike Vuozzo, John Barden, John Alongi, and Andy Rivera



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